Jobless claims fell by 27,000 to 300,000 in the week ended May 24, the Labor Department reported.
The median forecast of 50 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News called for 318,000. The four-week average declined to the lowest level since August 2007, before the last recession began.
Fewer dismissals may be a sign that companies, already lean from recession-era job cutting, are gearing up for improving demand as the economy shows signs of rebounding from a first-quarter slump. Gains in the labor market are needed to underpin consumer spending, which accounts for 70% of the economy.
“Jobless claims are at a very low and attractive level, and that’s stimulating employment growth,” said Russell Price, senior economist at Ameriprise Financial Inc.
The four-week average of claims, a less-volatile measure than the weekly figure, decreased to 311,500 from 322,750 the week before.
The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits fell by 17,000 to 2.63 million in the week ended May 17.